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Friday March 24th

Goalposts prove to be the enemy in UNC women's soccer draw against Texas

<p>UNC senior midfielder Dorian Bailey (29) shoots a penalty kick against No. 21 Texas in the first half of the team's 1-1 tie on Aug. 22 at Finley Field South.</p>
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UNC senior midfielder Dorian Bailey (29) shoots a penalty kick against No. 21 Texas in the first half of the team's 1-1 tie on Aug. 22 at Finley Field South.

It only took 70 seconds for Texas to knock North Carolina back on its heels on Wednesday night. 

Hardly a minute after the first kick between No. 4 UNC and No. 21 Texas, Cyera Hintzen corralled a defensive turnover by North Carolina’s sophomore Brooke Bingham and gave the Longhorns the perfect start to the game.

“My immediate response is, ‘We can’t let that marinate,’” senior defender Julia Ashley said. “I went over to Brooke and I was like, ‘Brooke, let it go. That is in the back of our minds and we can’t do anything about it, so we just have to move on and go forward.’”

And move forward they did. Bingham, Ashley and the defensive unit blanked Texas for the next 88 minutes and 50 seconds, and then again for 20 minutes in two overtime periods. 

Meanwhile, the offense was painting a picture around the goal frame with shots that seemed to wander just beyond the posts, and often right into them. 

The Tar Heels pounded three shots that deflected off the goal posts, with several more within a few inches or feet of the goal. UNC outshot Texas 20-9 but, due to the near misses, only put six shots on frame to Texas’ five.

One of these missed opportunities came on a penalty kick 23:41 into the first half. When first-year midfielder Rachael Dorwart was shoved down just to the left of the goal, senior midfielder Dorian Bailey lined up for the set piece. Her shot careened off the left upright, and Bailey rebounded the ball. She swiftly volleyed it back toward the net but Texas goalkeeper Nicole Curry managed to wrap her hands around the ball. The close calls frustrated the team throughout the night. 

“It's soccer, it happens,” forward Taylor Otto said. “Those are things we need to finish, and I think this next week of practice will be really good for us to get back out there, work on what we need to work on and fine tune things for the next game.”

Head coach Anson Dorrance highlighted the positives that led to the team having so many close opportunities at the net. Despite playing three games in seven days to begin the season, he commended his team for its presence in front of the goal.

“I was pleased with the aggressiveness and getting people in the box and making some good decisions in box organization,” Dorrance said.

With less than 70 seconds off the clock in the second half, the Tar Heels looked like they would replicate the Longhorns' opening stunner. Otto slid a cross in front of the goal, straight to the feet of first-year Brianna Pinto. Pinto had a one-on-one with Curry, but chipped the ball just high of the goal.

Six minutes later, Otto had the ball at the top of the box again. This time, she charged towards the goal herself before driving the ball across the frame for the equalizer. 

UNC outshot Texas 9-2 in the second period, but wasn’t quite able to put the finish on a go-ahead goal. Bailey had another shot off the crossbar, and first-year midfielder Mary Elliott McCabe had an open opportunity that clipped the outer side of the upright and went out of bounds. Junior forward Bridgette Andrzejewski drilled one off of the right post, but was called offside.

In overtime, the goalpost was a bit friendlier to the Tar Heels. 

With 6:33 left in the first overtime period, first-year goalkeeper Claudia Dickey got her hands on a would-be game winner, deflecting it off the crossbar to keep UNC alive and preserve a draw that remained after both overtime periods.

“In the first half the piece that was missing that we addressed at the half was our final passing and our composure and our finishing,” Dorrance said. “And we've got to continue to work on that. But there are a lot of pieces in this team that I like already. They move the ball well. We have players that can play all over the place for us.”

The Tar Heels will get a day off and then two consecutive days of practice before their next game. And Dorrance and his team are confident that after surviving a frenetic start to the season, they are in a position for long-term success.

After all, despite its struggle to finish, UNC spent nearly two hours preventing Texas from completing what Hintzen started 70 seconds into the game by holding on for the 1-1 draw. | @DTHSports


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